The Chicago Wolves fired twice as many shots as the Rockford IceHogs, but the IceHogs came away with the 5-3 victory Saturday night at Allstate Arena in the Wolves’ 28th season opener.
Forwards C.J. Smith and Ryan Suzuki and defenseman Eric Gelinas scored for the Wolves (0-1-0-0), who finished with a 43-22 shot advantage over the IceHogs (1-1-0-0) in Chicago’s first game at Allstate Arena since March 8, 2020.
Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky thought the game changed when his squad outshot Rockford by a 16-2 margin in the first period, yet couldn’t score.
“They got through the first period 0-0,” Warsofsky said. “We had some really good chances to score and could kind of feel (a Rockford rally) coming a little bit.”
The Wolves opened the scoring 18 seconds into the second period on Smith’s power-play goal. Captain Andrew Poturalski raced through the neutral zone with the puck and spied Smith open in the high slot. Smith dragged the puck briefly to gain space and whistled a wrister past goaltender Arvid Soderblom’s blocker.
Suzuki, the Carolina Hurricanes’ first-round pick in 2019, gave the Wolves a 2-0 lead with a short-handed goal at 5:28 of the second. Suzuki swiped Soderblom’s attempted clear, then fed defenseman Josh Jacobs for a shot from the bottom of the right circle. Soderblom blocked that attempt, but Suzuki poked the rebound between the goalie’s skates.
Rockford slashed Chicago’s lead to 2-1 when center Evan Barratt capitalized on a Wolves turnover at 6:48 of the second. The IceHogs pulled even when Lukas Reichel got a step on the defense and flipped a shot that goaltender Alex Lyon deflected, but not enough to prevent it from crossing the line. Rockford’s Brett Connolly gave the visitors a 3-2 edge when he finished off a 2-on-1 at 15:20.
The IceHogs boosted their margin to 4-2 at 5:46 of the third when Mike Hardman hacked at a loose puck in the defensive zone and it skittered all the way down the ice to set up Alex Nylander for a breakaway that he slipped past Lyon.
The Wolves pulled within 4-3 with 5:46 left in regulation when Dominik Bokk set up Gelinas for a one-timer on the power play. Nylander earned an insurance goal with an empty-net breakaway with 1:21 to play.
Soderblom (1-0-0) posted 41 saves to win his North American debut while Lyon (0-1-0) stopped 17 of 21 shots.
The Wolves return to Allstate Arena at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, when they host the Milwaukee Admirals on Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
Fans can honor their breast cancer survivor by donating $175 —providing a mammogram for someone who cannot afford one — to purchase a breast cancer survivor stick. A Wolves player will write the survivor’s name on his stick and autograph it after the game. To get tickets, email a Wolves ticket representative HERE or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.